On a hill in the centre of Tenby is a monument to Prince Albert. If you go there you will notice a startling discrepancy between the size of the statue and the plinth it stands on. There is a simple reason for this. The plinth was built to receive a much larger and arguably more significant memorial.
A large terraced house further inland holds the answer to the mystery. On the side of East Rock House is a large blue plaque. Erected in 2010 it simply says, Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir William and Lady Hamilton stayed here in 1802. You may well raise an eyebrow and you’d be right. While this plaque betrays more than Nelson would perhaps have liked it does not reveal the full extent of the role Tenby played in the Napoleonic wars.
A little known fact is that during the war, mother of Queen Victoria Dowager Princess of Saxe-Coburg, Princess Victoire was imprisoned at St Catherine’s Fort, Tenby for fear she was a fifth columnist. This service to the crown was never never forgotten and when it was time to build a memorial to Nelson, Tenby was the natural choice for it’s location. The town built the plinth in readiness for the monument which was constructed between 1840 and 1843 to a design by William Railton at a cost of £47,000.
Unfortunately for Tenby Victoria was by this time on the throne and upon learning how her mother had been treated in the war she ordered that the statue be located in London. Stuck with a massive plinth the townsfolk were bereft and constructed what is widely regarded as the world’s first piece of sarcastic public art, a disproportionately small statue of Prince Albert. Relations between the palace and Tenby remain frosty to this day.